- By: Dan Belmont
With today’s evolving utilities, the demands of Smart Grid, Smart Utility Services and communications have caused the sheer number of devices in the utility network to increase exponentially. Each of these devices needs to have telecommunications connectivity to allow for real time monitoring, control and collection of diagnostic data. These complex devices also utilize a variety of different communications networks: fiber, lease line, 2-way radio, commercial cellular, private licensed and unlicensed microwave, mesh and point, and multipoint. Convergence of these networks and their data creates a significant utility integration challenge and requires the use of data analytics to understand and maximize the benefits of all of the information. But, let’s not forget that none of these benefits exist without efficient and reliable communications to the devices.
As this transformation continues to take hold in your organization, are you ready and able to meet the additional challenge of monitoring and managing the foundation of these networks: the telecommunications infrastructure? Is your telecommunications team large enough, or do you even have one? Do you ask yourself:
- How will I expand my team?
- How will we operate and maintain this network?
- How will I provide the service level these business critical devices require?
- How will I insure the benefits that will pay for these huge Smart Utility investments?
To create a bit of perspective, think of this scenario. An IOU in a large city is putting in an Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) and Distribution Automation (DA) that will touch 3-4 million meters. Not only will this network of meters need to be managed, monitored and maintained, but all of the supporting infrastructure around it will too. In addition, a couple of thousand DA devices will need to be reliably communicated with in order to automate the switching operations to reduce outage and balance power. How will you do that?
Sounds easy right? Well, here is the truth. This network will have more devices than ANY of the local commercial wireless carriers. The electrical utility doesn’t just touch a percentage of the customers in the geography, but touches ALL of them! This will facilitate the elimination of meter reading and millions of dollars in truck rolls, but you will need a world class network management system, Network Operating Center (NOC) and 24/7 technicians to monitor, manage, troubleshoot and maintain this network.
Not sure how to do it? Rely on those who do. Network Managed Service Providers (MSPs) have the equipment, people and facilities in place to properly assist you in this work and have been providing these services for many years to the IT and Telecommunications world. Working closely with your team, a managed services provider can develop the training and tools to equip their team to meet the requirements you set at a fraction of the cost of owning and operating your own telecommunications team.
A managed service team can save you money, maximize your infrastructure investment and enhance your reliability and response time. It will cut your costs in three major ways: service level, technical skills and relationships. The service level agreement (SLA) is an integral part of the managed services agreement. You will benefit from the proactive response of the vendor adhering to the SLA and reduce mean time to repair.
The technical skills needed to be successful in today’s environment are ever changing as new technologies develop. Because the MSP’s staff is knowledgeable in many different technologies and works with a number of customers, their 24/7 exposure to the equipment, diagnosis and troubleshooting capability is superior to an organization’s in house team. Additionally, they are constantly training and utilizing best practices for the business processes that their customer base has them follow. This gives them the perspective to potentially suggest improvements in your troubleshooting, alerting, and break-fix process further increasing your reliability and reducing your mean time to repair. In addition, due to the fact that these technologies are core to their business, they also carry and maintain staff certifications on various equipment that at least meets, and in most cases exceeds, the level that any individual company’s telecommunications and network staff could amass.
For the same reasons described above, the relationships that the MSP’s have with the equipment vendors is typically more detailed and in depth than any individual team due to the breadth, depth and time spent interacting with technical support from these vendors.
West Monroe has created a Utility Specific Managed Services group that can offer you strategic cost savings, reliable infrastructure, reduced downtime, reduced staff, scalability and static pricing models, all while your telecommunications and network needs and requirements continue to grow. West Monroe typically sees a direct reduction of 10-30% in operational costs associated with this service, in addition to the benefits outlined in this article.
Do you have a more needs than resources? Do you experience too many outages and long repair times? Are you having trouble justifying more full time personnel?
If you are having trouble meeting the needs that the transformational changes and demands of a Smart Utility infrastructure puts on your IT and Telecommunications resources, contact Dan Belmont.